Sailing by Numbers
20 August 2010 | Mala Motu
Vavau is a group of islands with dozens of protected anchorages, all in close proximity. The transits are protected and typically less than two hours. This gunkholing reminds us of Washington's San Juan Islands. The appearance of the islands, sans the palm trees, and boat traffic is reminiscent as well. One surprising difference though is that WiFi hotspots exist in most of the anchorages here - Coverage was sparse outside of the main harbors in the San Juans. I think the coverage here is due to the charter fleet here, their customers on short holidays want to stay very connected. While the Moorings guide book is useful, a tragic influence of the charter companies is that beautiful names of the islands, bays and passes have been reduced to reference numbers. Three people today told me that a traditional Tongan feast was being held at #11 tonight.
Another difference with the San Juans is the wildlife. Yesterday morning the kids watched in awe as two sharks circled the boat during breakfast. They leaned over the lifelines for the better looks. We weren't too concerned as these reef sharks were all of two feet, but it was a nice show for the kids. Hopefully we will see some snorkeling. Inside the reef, the sharks are pretty harmless, but I do keep watch.
Neiafu (#1) was loud. Each night a different café seemed to host a dance party. Our mooring was a quarter mile from town, but inside the boat the music sounded like I had my stereo on just past the comfort point. The music choices are a mix of Island hip hop and 80s tunes. Last night I got to hear "Hey Ricky" twice. And just the other day there was a Karaoke competition in the afternoon to see who could do the best rendition of We are the World. I think there were at least 20 competitors.
Despite the tourism industry there are still cultural experience to be had. Last night we had dinner at a café where school children from another island come once a week to perform traditional dances to raise money for their school. While not as polished than the show at Aggies, the kids were amazing. An eight year old and a six year old were part of the show, and quite good.
Tonight in the quiet shadow of Mala Motu (sadly known as #6 to most of the cruisers here.) the kids are camping out in the cockpit. We told them we would let them start there, then haul them in as once the mosquito coils burns out they will be attacked. The mosquitoes here are plentiful, and we seem to react more strongly to the bites than we do at home. It is hard to imagine these islands without mosquitoes, as they were before the Europeans came. Outside of Neiafu Vavua is quite peaceful.
We can clearly see the bottom here, 30 feet down. This afternoon we snorkeled around the boat, and it was pretty good. Tomorrow morning we will dinghy over to some nearby reefs. There are a lot of jelly fish here, but the stings aren't too bad as they are moon jellys. Like a mild burn. Sophie, Finn, Freya and I all got hit while snorkeling off the boat. It took a couple of stings for us to realize what the discomfort was from, so clearly the pain is not great. Hopefully there will be fewer in the shallower water near the island.
Cleaning a jellyfish out of the water maker intake's seawater strainer rivals fixing the head as the most unpleasant maintenance job. Midway through making water the pump stated making a funny noise, and freshwater production dropped off. Nasty surprise. In addition to partially strained jelly, there were bits of plastic that may have come from a fishing lure. Still, I would not trade the water maker for collecting rain. Still a lot of boats out here doing just that.
I better check my engine intake for debris tomorrow, as I haven't for a while. In theory the engine is the auxiliary power source, but in these islands, like in the San Juans, it is easy to get lazy, turn on the engine, autopilot and chartplotter, and enjoy the ride. Maybe that's why those numbers are so popular.
P.S. Christine's back is steadily getting better.